THE KAERU KID: Travel advice from the Kid for a Happy New Year

The Nichi Bei asked me to provide answers to many travel questions for a special New Year’s article.

My number one advice is: GO NOW. Waiting until retirement may result in old age problems that discourage travel and result in you sitting in the rocking chair mumbling, “If only I had…”

How to Book Deals:
If you like cruises, for the best prices, select a repositioning cruise. Travel will be during the shoulder season. For example, Alaskan cruises are terminating for the summer and transferring the ships to a warmer climate like the Caribbean, Mexican Riviera or down to South America. Disadvantages include longer days at sea and many packages do not include airfare, so the total price has to be carefully tabulated. Check Google for repositioning cruises. Cruise Complete offers such an option: www.cruisecompete.com/specials/deals/repositioning/1.

The late booking of cruises can save a lot of money, BUT consider: your schedule must be flexible enough to be able to go on sudden notice; transportation to the embarkation port may not have discounts on such late notice, and will negate any cost savings; your cabin choice is limited and the cruise itinerary and ship may not be the best and is the reason for many empty cabins. There are discounts for early bookings, too, and you will get the items you desire, so this may be a better choice.

For land tours, it depends on where you want to go, but every location has a shoulder season when the weather is still pleasant, but the crowds are down. Do not travel during holidays such as Easter or Christmas vacations. Google.com is my prime resource for ALL information and answers to my questions, such as best price tours to a particular locale. I compare prices and what exactly tour operators provide as far as meals, transportation, and accommodations besides the sites visited. Again, use Google to compare tour operators.

If you know you are going to visit somewhere far in advance, one can enter the data in www.farecompare.com and also check the “my dates are flexible” box.

You will be notified if fares become cheaper. Traveling on weekends is always more expensive. Southwest Airlines does not use third party sites, so compare them directly if traveling within the United States. If traveling to less visited cities in Europe, it may be wise to look for a major hub destination and take a train to your final destination or check Google for European low airfare carriers to that place.

What about sites such as Priceline.com? There is a possibility of nabbing a great price, but the downsides include not knowing what company or hotel will be offered. Also, no cancellation is possible once the deal is accepted. I rarely use it because I search for Internet deals direct.

Guidebooks
I use them rarely now. Go to the library and read several and decide which suits you best. While at the library, look at many travel magazines and National Geographic for valuable information about your destination. My subscription to Budget Travel magazine is interesting reading and occasional bargains are listed. Another valuable travel magazine with contributions by readers is International Travel News. A free sample copy is available by asking. Mostly, I use the Internet and print out interesting information.

Accommodation Deals
As far as accommodations, www.hotels.com, www.expedia.com, www.orbitz.com and www.kayak.com are proven sites that provide a guide to prices. Also, search Google for frugal accommodations for the location being visited. For a frugal traveler like me, I check out www.travellerspoint.com, www.tripadvisor.com, and I belong to www.affordabletravelclub.net, as well as www.couchsurfing.org.
Home swaps are available and are a cost saving idea. The idea of having strangers in my home was not appealing, but for one teachers’ home swap program, there was an option to be there as a host and then have them host you. It worked marvelously and life-long friendships were forged.

Safety Issues
As far as safety pointers, always be alert for pickpockets anywhere and do not bring expensive jewelry or other highly valuable items when traveling. Carry your wallet around a neck holder under your shirt, belt wallet holder or special wallets with a chain attachment. Women should be aware there are special ladies security travel bags.

As far as violent crime, avoid rioting mobs and visiting unsafe areas that your hotel warns you about. Usually, local police will protect tourists who are a major money source for their country.

Taxis are notorious for cheating customers. Try to determine the correct fare in advance by asking a local and confirm with the driver. In some countries, one must insure you use only approved companies to prevent kidnapping and worse.

For health safety, stick to bottled water that is unopened, wine, beer or soft drinks. Avoid ice unless you trust their statement that it is made from purified water. Avoid vegetables and unpeeled fruit in emerging countries unless it is cleaned and disinfected by a reputable restaurant or hotel dining room. I am a foodie and love to try street food, but observe their sanitary conditions and select the ones that are the most popular.

Do a Google search for required vaccinations at exotic locales or malaria prophylaxis.

Always carry extra toilet paper and hand sanitizers.

Luggage 
Early on in my travels I would try to anticipate every situation that might arise and packed a bulging 26” suitcase with all the side pockets filled. Slowly it dawned on me that most of the packed items were not necessary or could be purchased easily locally.

My luggage is now limited to a 21” carry-on purchased from Costco. An expensive matching Tumi set sits unused in the garage. Be sure there are sturdy wheels for easy transportation. Having an expensive set just invites thieves to steal from the carousel or noticing what room the luggage is delivered for a burglary attempt. Having a carry-on insures no lost luggage and allows for quick responses if flight plans need to be altered. I also carry a large briefcase bag for my computer, but there are enough side pockets to add an inflatable neck pillow, visor, sunglasses, travel clock, small binoculars, snacks, tiny flashlight, and all sorts of electronic products such as chargers, adaptors, iPhone and earphones. I also put colored ribbons on the luggage handles for quick identification and someone cannot walk off with it claiming it looked like theirs. There are special TSA locks that I don’t use since it is carry-on, but might consider for checked luggage. Don’t ever pack valuables or necessary medication in checked luggage.

photo by The Kaeru Kid

Of course, if the vacation is with a tour group or a cruise, a larger piece of luggage should not be a problem and probably is an important consideration for ladies who want to have the appropriate clothes for every occasion. However, do not buy large luggage that are excessively heavy because airlines will impose a surcharge and if no porter aid is available it will result in a hassle for you.

Packing  
My clothes selections are non-wrinkle color coordinated items. Undershirts, underpants with socks are rolled into a tube. The shirt is then laid out and the tube is placed across the shirt and the shirt folded and rolled into a similar tube and the process is repeated seven times. An extra pair of pants is also rolled up. A week’s supply of clothes is in this suitcase and pulling out a roll daily provides that day’s apparel. By day six at a destination, a laundry service is selected to clean the used clothes. I do not like doing laundry in the hotel every night. Some people travel with just three changes of clothes, but must do laundry nightly. I also put plastic b

photo by The Kaeru Kidags, which occupy little space, on the bag’s bottom to hold dirty clothes, etc. A small pencil like stain remover is in my computer bag.

Cold climes might require packing my UC Berkeley hooded sweatshirt, but usually the fleece jacket I wear is more than adequate. A folded plastic rain cape about the size of a wallet fits in my luggage side-pocket. I wear a money belt from REI that is cheap, all plastic and most TSA people allow you to wear it through the metal scanner, and you can carry emergency funds and passport copy inside the liner.

Miscellaneous Tips
Because of my frequent travels, a Global Entry Pass, which I purchased for $220, permits me to enter the United States for five years without having to stand in long passport lines. It also eliminates the need to fill out a paper custom form. One can apply online at http://usa.immigrationvisaforms.com/travel/global-entry-pass. Now, if the Pass would allow bypassing the TSA screening, it would be a godsend. It is on a trial basis with a few airlines at select airports.
For those who travel independently, a cell-phone for the country being visited can be very convenient. Again, Google can help you in your selection. Here is one example: www.telestial.com/promo/packlite.php. The cost is $19, but only for certain countries. With an unlocked phone, one can buy a SIM card for whatever country you are visiting for as low as $5.

Make a few colored copies of your passport to carry in your purse or wallet and place a copy in your luggage in case your passport is lost. Many transactions in foreign countries require a passport, but usually a copy will suffice.

For hotel stays, obtain their business card so a return to the correct address is facilitated.

Learn how to say, “thank you” in the local language and say it often so it becomes easier and easier. You will be surprised at the results.

Must-have items
My must-have travel items are: a passport, ATM card, credit cards, computer and my ultra compact Canon SD880 IS Powershot camera. I started with a small Apple laptop, but the iPad has so many features in its small size and weight that it may become my first choice. The computer provides me with entertainment while waiting and helps in selecting restaurants or sites in strange places, making transportation reservations or plans and more uses than one can imagine. A Skype application allows free telephone calls worldwide to fellow Skype users, or any number may be called for just pennies/minute. There are so many apps for travelers, but a valuable one may be one that translates what you write into voice in the native language and the other person can do the same. I haven’t tried this, but it sounds intriguing. BootsnAll.com’s “50 of the Best Smartphone Apps for Indie Travelers” is a good list of choices for travel apps: http://bit.ly/s8lDf9. If a GPS is available in a foreign country in which you will be driving, it is invaluable. One can usually buy an upgrade card to use with the GPS you may have.

Money exchange can be deceptively expensive, so money obtained in local currency from an ATM is my choice since Travelers checks may prove difficult to cash.

My modus operandi probably applies to few readers since my travels are as a lone wolf and frugal ways to save on all travel costs are a main consideration in order to afford to go somewhere every month. Some of these tips may not be useful to women, obviously.

I am fortunate to have a friend who lives near the airport and is willing to take me and pick me up to avoid airport-parking fees. A friend may be willing to transport you to and from the airport in exchange for doing the same for them.

Does this all sound like lots of work and frustration? If you are traveling independently, what if you become lost in a country that does not speak English? These are the reasons travel agencies exist. The best ones will discuss what your interests are and book you into a tour suited to your preferences. I suggest a tour with some free time so one can do some independent exploring or have an optional tour available for any free time. Of course, there is a fee for their services, but this is supposed to be a vacation for pleasure and eliminating frustrations is well worth the cost. Check advertisers in the Nichi Bei or ask friends for references.

Happy Trails!


Las Vegas Tidbits

I am constructing a Website: KaeruKid.com and hope to have it up in a month or so.

 

The Kaeru Kid lives in Las Vegas and hopes readers will send him comments at KaeruKid@yahoo.com. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

Comments

  1. […] the alrtcie here: Volunteer Card Blog » Travel Preparation: What to Do Before You Go September 7th, 2010 at 3:49 […]

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

  2. Excellent tips. Happy new year 2017..

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